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The #1 Application Trick

Okay, my title is a bit disingenuous, because the “trick” I have for you doesn’t really deserve the name. But that’s just because it’s doesn’t involve dissembling. Is it really a trick if it doesn’t involve deceiving your audience? My “#1 trick” for college applications is simple and honest: be yourself.

This rule applies to every aspect of your application. Be candid and say you want to be an archaeology major if you do. Do some real thinking and try to write an essay that reflects your thoughts, instead of pandering to imagined readers. List your activities on the Common App in terms of their importance to you, and never sign up for a club or a sport unless you’re interested. Being as honest as possible will make your application stronger, more unique, and more consistent. You’ll also avoid the grasping mistakes that many students make in their applications.

At the end of the day, though, don’t you have to sell yourself? You do, and many students have trouble with this. It can feel like bragging simply to describe in your essay a successful endeavor or an experience that led to an award. But if that’s what really important to you, describe it anyway. Likewise, you should list every award and every activity that matters to you, however you feel it may look. Don’t worry about bragging, as long as you are sincerely proud of what you write about or put on your Common App. The necessity of selling yourself and the inherent performance of the college application mean that you can never simply “be yourself” in an uncomplicated way. But, even if the dictum is meaningless as an ideal, use it as your guiding light and you’ll end up with a persuasive and unique application.


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